CHAPTER 1 - The Victorian Fields Of Fen Drayton

Leah Lavinia Randall was the eldest of nine children.
Two though had died at birth.
Head of the family, John, worked in the fields.
His wife, Sarah Ann, would have been busy looking after the kids.

It was a simple life living in Fen Drayton - there was just a couple of streets, a school, three pubs, a cricket team and a church.

The four hundred villagers would be reduced to two hundred by the end of the century.

Cambridge was eleven miles away - a three hour walk.

Hemingford Grey was four miles away which is significant because......
......around a century later I moved there.
I chose Hemingford Grey because I could commute to London easily and my new wife could get to Durham easily.

On the day we moved in we went to an Indian restaurant in St Ives.
I was unaware Leah had worked there as a servant ninety years previously.
She was one of the people who had left the village.



Leah is my grandmother.
Randall in my middle name.



CHAPTER 2 - A Chelsea Marriage In 1898

Christ Church, built in 1838-9, was conveniently placed for my grandparents' marriage.
It was a one minute walk from 41 Caversham Street.
Oscar Wilde had lived in the area but at the time of the marriage Oscar was incarcerated in Reading jail.

Unfortunately number 41 does no longer exist - it, along with the whole of the south side of the street, was flattened in WW2.

Their first child, my Auntie Jeannie, was born there on 13 January 1899 and was baptised in Christ Church a couple of months later.



A couple of years back my daughter and I walked those streets looking For Blue Plaques (e.g. Oscar, Mark Twain, Bob Marley).
We probably took the same journey from Cambridgeshire that Leah had travelled.

In 1966-7 I attended Chelsea College of Science & Technology blissfully unware that my grandparents had lived less than a ten minute walk away.



CHAPTER 3 - Caterham In The Early Nineteenth Century

In 1975 an IRA bomb exploded in the Caterham Arms public house injuring 10 off-duty soldiers and 23 civilians.
Ask most people and that is the only fact they know about Caterham.
That and Caterham Cars.

But for me it was Surrey home for many members of our Anderson Family for around 35 years at the start of the nineteenth century.

Grandfather was stationed at the newly opened Barracks - he never saw action.

Initially Leah was a cook/domestic at Haveringwell, Banstead Road in Caterham but then she lived in Heath Road.
Auntie Jeannie very quickly had four siblings.

At the end of WW1 Auntie Jeannie married George in St Ives, Cambridgeshire so returning to where her mother was brought up.


(with young Ken)

Auntie Agnes married John in Caterham in 1932.
A year later Auntie Muriel married Norman in the same place.
Dad joined the RAF and got hitched in Aylesbury in 1937.
Uncle Joseph remained single and went to Australia.

At the start of WW2 Grandfather (now retired) and Leah were living at Heath Road.



CHAPTER 4 - 1948-1951 Camberwell

My parent's wedded life had started in Aylesbury in 1937 and they travelled a lot before I came along in Camberwell Grove in 1948.
Leah unfortunately had died two years previously in Exeter.

Auntie Jeannie married Ronald in Camberwell the following year.
Auntie Muriel married Alexander in Camberwell soon after.
But by that time I was living in the shadow of Grenfell Tower.

A couple of years later Auntie Jeannie married again.
This time to Harold in Dover.
She saw her latter days in Cambridge so not far from Fen Drayton which is where our story started.

Auntie Muriel saw out her latter days in Oxfordshire.

Lastly Auntie Agnes also married a second time.
This was in 1958 in Croydon to Peter.
She died in Swindon.